Nicole Fillion-Robin, LAc, MAcOM
You've decided to try acupuncture, maybe you've even signed up for your first session, here are nine things you might not expect on your first visit!
1. PAPERWORK. Get ready! You will have a ton of really close and personal questions to answer about yourself in the intake paperwork, so make sure you've found someone you feel comfortable talking to! Chinese Medicine is a holistic practice, meaning we look at harmonizing mind, body, spirit and even your gastrointestinal system. So don't be caught off guard at questions that might not seem like they have anything to do with your back pain.
2. ARRIVAL TIME. On that note, out of respect for the next patient, your acupuncturist's time, and to get the most out of your treatment, fill out your intake paperwork as much as you can before arrival, or arrive 30 minutes ahead of time to have plenty of time to fill it out. The more time we have with you, the more we can get done!
3. NEEDLES. A lot of clients want to know if it will be like receiving a vaccination. The good news is NO! The needles used for vaccines are hollow, while the acupuncture needles are about 40 times smaller since they are filiform (solid).
4. WILL IT HURT? Usually, no but sometimes yes. The most common sensations with needle insertion ranges from no sensation at all to tingling, pressure, or a dull ache. It should never be shooting or stinging! The most important thing I like to tell clients is that you are in control of this treatment. If anything is uncomfortable, I certainly don’t want it to be, and more pain does not equal more gain! I would much rather you be able to relax, take a nap, and let your nervous system do the work for 20 minutes than be worried about that needle in your arm hurting. In my opinion, the most healing happens when you are at rest, which requires comfort and a sense of safety. Let your acupuncturist know if anything is uncomfortable and we will always adjust the needles to adapt to your own, perfect anatomy.
5. WILL I GET CUPPING / GUA SHA? It depends! Cupping and gua sha both have unique functions and are part of the larger Traditional Chinese Medicine “toolbox” which also includes acupuncture, qigong, e-stim, herbal medicine and dietary counseling. You might not alway need every tool on a certain day and we do our best to pick the best ones for each treatment.
6. EAT FOOD! One of the most common unwanted side effects to acupuncture is feeling lightheaded or passing out (like people might after giving blood), but this does not usually happen if you have eaten in the past 4 hours. If you are prone to feeling lightheaded while donating blood, let your acupuncturist know and eat a small snack before your treatment.
7. DON'T BRUSH YOUR TONGUE. Seriously! The color, thickness and locations of your tongue coating are important parts of diagnosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine, so you should try to resist doing that in the morning before your visit, or take a picture of your tongue upon waking for your acupuncturist.
8. AFTERCARE. The great thing about acupuncture is that you do not have many limitations after treatment, and it should not interfere with your life. Many people go to drive, go to work, go to yoga right afterwards. The only caveat: we don’t want you doing anything extreme right afterwards (no running marathons, drugs, heaving drinking, fasting, super hot yoga, etc) to eliminate the noise so that your body can focus on healing.
9. FOLLOW-UP. I always like to follow up with patients after a first visit, especially if it’s their first ever acupuncture treatment. It’s hard to think of questions immediately after your session because of how relaxed you feel. See how you sleep and how you feel the next morning, and write down any questions you thought of on a post it note or in an email. I’ll be happy to answer them for you the next day.